"Laura? Are you out here?"

Serenity waited a moment for the girl to come out of hiding, if indeed that was what she was doing, but when nobody answered she stepped out of the large house and onto the darkened patio. She cast her eyes nervously around; she wasn't too fond of dark places, especially those that were outside, but she was even less fond of losing her charge. Little Laura, the Reeves' adorable, precocious, wild child had run off again.

"Laura, come out this instant!" Serenity shouted into the night, not budging from the edge of the porch as she surveyed the yard before her. The Reeves just had to live out in the country, about a mile away from any neighbors, and right next to a very large and very dark forest. To Serenity, who had spent her entire life in the city, country life meant lots of bugs, wild animals, and long rides away from her friends. However, it also generally meant higher babysitting wages from the family, so she didn't complain too much.

At least, she hadn't complained much until now. "Laura!" she called out desperately, not wanting to venture into the night's shadows, but when she heard nothing she gave an exasperated groan. Slamming the screen door behind her angrily, she stormed into the living room, grabbed her shoes and slipped them on, then strode forcefully through the screen door to search for the little girl.

When she was ten feet from the door, her pace rapidly slowed down as she realized she really didn't know where to look. She took one last longing look at the house, squared her shoulders, and moved toward the barn shouting the girl's name yet again. She realized when she reached the barn, however, that the main door into the barn's office and stables was locked, as was the large door for leading the animals in and out. Blowing a strand of hair out of her eye in frustration, she put her hands on her hips and looked around. "Laura," she called in a warning voice as she stalked over towards the playground next to the house.

"....Senity...."

Serenity stopped dead, fully alert as she tried to find the source of the call. "Laura?" she called again, hoping the girl would answer this time.

"....Senity, where are you...."

"Laura?" Serenity called again, uncertain which way to go. It was as if the little girl was calling her from under water; she could hear the word itself clearly, yet it seemed distorted somehow. It wasn't faded like it would be by distance but still it seemed difficult to hear, and was proving even more difficult to pinpoint.

"....Senity, help me!...."

"Laura! Where are you?" Serenity was running in circles now, uncertain just where to go. The voice didn't seem to be coming from any one place; it was like an echo, surrounding her with no one specific vocal point. Serenity was beginning to get scared now, and not just of the dark; no matter if she was a handful, Laura was one of her favorite children to babysit. The child was simply adorable; blond hair, blue eyes, a little cherub face, and a pixie nose made all who met the precocious child fall in love with her. 

"....Senity, please!!...."

The disjointed voice had taken on a distinct note of fear now, and the feeling was contagious. Serenity ran to the playground beside the house but couldn't find the child. When she made it over to a woodpile at the other end of the house, she didn't see her little cherub. She did find several spiders, one of which looked disturbingly like a very large black widow, but she was too nervous to be scared. She started getting scared when she didn't hear the little girl's voice and started screaming out the name as loudly as she could, hoping that somebody, maybe the neighbors, might hear.

"....Senity, it's dark...."

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